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Future models - Peugeot - 308

Peugeot 308 on a par with Golf at last

Golf match: Peugeot's top of the range 308 GT is available with either petrol or diesel power and will go after the premium small hatch competiton.

Second-gen Peugeot 308 has learnt from the iconic Volkswagen Golf champ

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Peugeot logo30 Sep 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

PEUGEOT is taking aim at the dominating Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3 small hatchbacks with its most competitively priced and packaged small car to be offered in Australia.

On sale from late October (a year after its European launch), the T9 series 308 will start from $21,990 plus on-road costs for the Access 96kW e-THP manual – $6500 cheaper than the outgoing entry-level first-generation Style automatic.

As before, the 308 will arrive in five-door hatchback and Touring wagon body styles, but departs from its six-year old predecessor with all-turbo direct-injection engines with stop/start eco-enhancing devices, six-speed transmissions across the board, advanced driver-aid safety and a highly specified tech-laden interior.

Speaking at the global 308 launch this week, Peugeot Automobiles national marketing manager, Dimitri Andreatidis, told GoAuto the company had waited until the right variants were available before launching the 308 into Australia.

“We wanted to release the 308 with the right engines and transmissions. It is very important for us to get it right from the start,” he said.

The 308 debuts Peugeot’s all-new EB turbo series of downsized Euro-6 emissions-rated direct-injection variable-valve petrol engines, destined for the forthcoming 208 and 2008, in 1.2-litre three-cylinder guise.

Available in the Access, mid-range Active automatic (from $27,340) and Allure auto (from $30,490) grades, it takes on the Golf 90TSI with a healthy 96kW of power at 5500rpm and 230Nm of torque from 1750rpm.

Only the base variant comes with a six-speed manual gearbox (until next year’s GT petrol), leaving the rest of the French-built 308 range driving the front wheels via a six-speed torque converter automatic built by Aisin in Japan.

Tipping the scales from just 1090kg, its all-new construction is both lighter and stronger than before, enabling the three-cylinder turbo-powered models to get to 100km/h between 9.1 and 9.6 seconds, yet can return a fuel consumption average of 4.6 litres per 100km (auto: 5.1L/100km) for a 107 g/km of carbon dioxide emissions rating.

That is no mean feat for a five-seater five-door hatch measuring in at 4.25 metres long, 1.8m wide and 1.45m high, but the 96kW 1.2L e-THP engine’s real strength is in its effortless and punchy performance.

Eager off the mark and willing to rev to the red line, the three-pot turbo pulls hard in every gear, for brisk acceleration that could last well beyond the national speed limit.

Furthermore, it is a quiet and smooth engine that soon has you forgetting that it is a cylinder down on most rivals. We also drove the 1220kg-plus Allure Touring wagon auto with the same engine.

The frisky 1.2-litre turbo bodes well for the 110kW/240Nm 1.6L four-cylinder petrol turbo units coming from March in the up-spec Allure (from around $32,000) and Allure Premium (about $35,000) it needs 8.5s to hit 100km/h, and consumes 6.5L/100km while emitting 150g/km of CO2.

The Allure Premium will heave with standard kit, including adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, automatic park assistance, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, and a reverse camera. All of which are new to the 308.

The final petrol model for now will be the circa-$40,000 GT, using a variation of the same 1.6L engine as above, but delivering 151kW/285Nm, 7.5s for the 100km/h sprint, 5.6L/100km and 130g/km.

When it surfaces in March it will have the popular Golf GTI firmly in its sights.

A ‘Sport’ button will feature in the GT that ups the throttle response and adds weight to the steering, while sportier suspension lowers the ride height.

If maximising driving range is your thing, the 308 obliges with a pair of Euro-6 BlueHDi four-cylinder engines in 110kW/370Nm 1.6L (from $34,790 in Allure) and 133kW/400Nm 2.0-litre sizes in the GT version.

The latter – which accelerates to 100km/h in 8.4s while returning just 4.0L/100km and 103g/km – will also arrive late in the first quarter next year. Its pricing has yet to be announced, though a figure about the $42,000 mark is expected.

The smaller turbo-diesel, meanwhile, only needs another 0.2s to shoot past 100km/h, but is marginally heavier on the environment at 4.1L/100km/107g/km.

We managed an extended drive of the 110kW BlueHDi hatch, and it impressed us with its rapid off-the-mark performance and easy, loping character on the open road.

Furthermore, there is so little sound intrusion including tyre wind and engine noise, that Mazda3 owners will not believe their ears.

Peugeot says it worked hard to improve the quality and refinement properties during the latest model's 4.5-year gestation, despite lopping off around 140kg compared to the previous model.

Part of this involved an increased use of high-tensile steels, which in turn have resulted in a torsionally stiffer vehicle. Some four million kilometres of durability testing was undertaken, including 15,000 hours of endurance.

The result is a dramatically different driving modern Peugeot small car, even though the basic electric rack and pinion steering, MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear end have been utilised.

All however, have either been highly modified or completely redesigned, to work within the new modular EMP2 platform parameters.

Compared to the outgoing version, the latest 308 feels lighter and more agile at every turn, aided by sharp but not overly sensitive steering, resulting in responsive and accurate handling. The Peugeot has a planted and confident attitude, with a smooth fluidity that flatters the driver’s style.

Only a propensity for the rear end to occasionally skip hard over bigger bumps betrays the less sophisticated rear suspension design compared to the multi-link units underpinning the Golf, Mazda3 and Ford Focus.

However the Spanish and French roads travelled on the 308 launch drive were exceptionally smooth, so a definitive verdict on the ride quality has to wait. As it stands, the suspension’s suppleness is exemplary.

While the 308's overall length and height have been chopped, the wheelbase is around 120mm longer, for a welcome uplift in legroom and cargo capacity, with comfort to equal most of its rivals.

In most cases, improved materials have been employed inside the car, raising the cabin ambience considerably.

The only real evidence of cost cutting is in the lower-dash area plastics, which remain shiny and hard, but of more concern is the lack of rear-seat air vents and a solitary cupholder up front.

Otherwise the 308’s interior is one of its strongest showroom assets, supported by a hefty thud when the doors close, classy analogue instruments, which are positioned at the base of the windscreen for minimum eyes-off-the-road distraction.

A simple and effective touchscreen system is standard on all but the base model, and its fine driving position with low-steering wheel set-up was first seen in the smaller 208.

However, the tachometer swings the wrong way, which is irritating, and the sat-nav system regularly had us lost in the 308’s homeland, but Australian representatives assured us this wouldn’t happen in the Antipodes.

Additionally, fat pillars caused some blind spots through roundabouts, but otherwise the newcomer’s high levels of comfort, refinement and modernity should give Volkswagen’s product-planners sleepless nights.

Finally, the next-gen 308 comes with a five-year capped price servicing plan in 12 month or 15,000km servicing intervals, though the warranty period remains at three-years or 100,000km.

More Australian-market details about the second-generation 308 will be released later in October.

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